Strategic Analysis by
Research Institute for European and American Studies
Greece over the past decade has become a source country concerning the entrance of an unspecified amount of illegal immigrants, mostly from Asian and African states, that enter mainly through the Greek-Turkish borders and with the complicity or indifference of the authorities of the neighbouring country, despite the bilateral and international agreements that have been sealed for this matter.
Illegal immigration is actually an asymmetrical threat aimed at destabilizing the Greek state and it is of critical interest to view it under the prism of Ankara’s stance concerning Greece’s role in the region. In simple terms Turkey uses the masses of desperate people being gathered in its territory in order to inflict great losses in the Greek economy and alter its ethnic and social profile. The latest information that have verified the above writings are videos and images depicting the Turkish Coast Guard deploring immigrants in the Greek Islands; that were shown in Greek national TV without any denial from the other side.
Turkey as a Eurasian Crossing
The Turkish authorities have announced from time to time that they expel some 100,000 illegal immigrants from their territory each year, whilst between 1995 and 2005 they managed to expel over 575,000 and arrest 6,100 smugglers. Even though the flow of people from the East to the West seems unstoppable, and an 8 billion USD illegal industry has been created, cantered on the main metropolitan Turkish centres.
The same criminal groups that are apt into securing great earnings from the modern slave trade, are also involved in the narcotics and arms trade, thus presenting the real magnitude of the threat involved which is the multiplication of organized crime activities and the existence of a multifunctional parallel crime syndicated state in Turkey that is also a threat to Greek and European stability.
The prices for a “crossing” between the Turkish shore and the Aegean Islands – a few miles apart- costs from 2,000 to 5,000 US dollars and for an illegal route from Turkey to Northern Europe the smugglers demand up to 15,000 USD. The immigrants from the African countries travel to Izmir, Istanbul and Mersin through vessels crossing the Mediterranean Sea, whilst Arabs come mostly through the Syrian-Turkish borders. The Asians (Pakistani, Kurds, and Afghani) pass through the Iranian-Turkish borders and it has to be noted that both countries do not have a visa regime, although Teheran is accused by the world community as a sponsor of terrorism. Therefore the flow of people from Iran to Turkey is in fact unconstrained and there has not been pressure to Ankara to alter this state of affairs with its neighbour.
At this point it has to be noted that between Middle East, Iran and Greece there is only one country apart and that it Turkey. That is one of the main reasons USA does not lift the visa between Greece and the States because there is a real threat of terrorists, criminals and other travelling through the Atlantic once reaching Greek territory. As it was mentioned before that is much easier that originally though, judging by the fact that from Central Asia to the Aegean the border controls are either lax or non existent.
Once reaching Turkish territory the immigrants are literally stashed in old warehouses or decaying apartments and wait for their transfer. In the meantime -a period up to 2 years- they work as underpaid manual workers in the local tourist and industry businesses, thus minimizing labour costs in Turkey.
Currently it can be safely estimated that there are 1 million illegal immigrants “in transit” from Turkey to Europe and many of them will end up in Greece and allocate themselves in the newly founded ghettos in the centre of Athens, in the port of Patras or in various locations in the countryside, thus adding up to the 2.5 million illegal aliens already present in Greece.
Greece and Turkey had signed a bilateral agreement concerning organized crime and illegal immigration (17/12/2005), although it has not been practically put into action and most importantly Athens already accuses the other side that it does not conform at all in the obligations written in the official documents, such as re-acceptance of expelled people from Greece that had left previously the Turkish coastline.
The Stakes Involved
Greece is on the front line of the European periphery, meaning its actions have wider ramifications for the overall security architecture of the Continent.
There are three parameters by which the issue can be viewed upon.Firstly there seems to be a trial by the Turkish state to exhaust the Greek security, police and military forces that apart from their conventional duties have to deal with the increasing problem of persons crossing daily and in great numbers the borders in land and in the sea. Additionally to that the creation of large Muslim communities will play a destabilizing role concerning the societal balances of Greece as recent experience in France, UK, Italy and the Netherlands has shown.
Moreover the undocumented aliens are responsible for the introduction of hygiene issues into the Greek territory and diseases such as tuberculosis that were almost extinct, have gain in strength recently. Further the Greek state budget is pressured due to the increased health, education, security, humanitarian and transport needs of a large number of people that don’t pay taxes nor do they bring capital into the country but instead they transfer abroad the largest amount of the wages they gain in Greece.
Lastly illegal immigration is a suitable terrain for the infiltration of European space by terrorists, criminals, espionage agents and any other category of the population wishing to avoid control and detention. Thus the future of Europe and Greece is being compromised due the lack of the basic principles of security in the international system, which is the verification of the identity of the passengers, a key factor for the existence of a stable and peaceful environment in the present day globalized era.
Athens should realize that the time has passed where the issue could have been resolved though the use of intellectual debates and non-practical dialogue between oblivious politicians.Actually the climax is near judging by the fact that the overpopulation in the East and the global economic crisis will arrive shortly, thus creating further strain in the borderlines.
Therefore some practical steps are needed:
The domestic intelligence network of Greek informants and collaborators that cooperate with their Turkish counterparts should be neutralized and disbanded before any sustainable gain could be made.
The role of Turkey as discussed above and the regime relating to border crossings in the Middle East, should be made vocally known by the Greek Foreign Ministry to the global forums, conferences and the international organizations. The pampering of states and regimes that degrade the security of other societies should be brought to a halt and the full consequences of their actions should be publicly known.
For the moment the Greek diplomatic authorities are extravagantly at ease with the current distressful situation and completely out of tune in relation with the above proposed action.
Moreover the Greek patrol guards and teams should be able to make sensible use of their light firearm arsenal, since illegal crossing is in direct violation of a country’s independence and the numbers are so great that they constitute a sort of an invasion.
Furthermore that does not mean the killing of innocent civilians, but rather the use of hard power composed by the new technology “non lethal weapons”, the targeting of the smugglers-criminals involved, even the use of psychological warfare techniques into the territory of the neighbouring country before even the preparation of the crossings begins.
The Greek state could also make use of its bilateral relations with countries such as Pakistan, Iran, Syria and others in order to persuade and pressure the foreign governments to take responsibility for their citizens ending up in Greece, many times without documents and passports.
The creation of online data-bases with the latest techniques of facial recognition that verify for the identity of every immigrant can assist to that. It has to be noted that any initiative by Athens to those states will only have a minimal effect since the governments in there are mostly interested in dealing with their social issues by allowing the immigration of large numbers of unemployed and unskilled citizens and there are also indications concerning the initiatives by Islamic groups to form strong communities in Europe by exploiting the religious faith of the newly comers.
The stance of Greece should be in overall terms, that of a state that considers it s territory a “non suitable illegal immigration route” and make it know in an international level. Although the Greek governmental officials seem rather hesitant into implementing the above recommendations, the historical necessity and the international obligations of the country might activate them rather soon than latter.